Thou­sands flee­ing shelling in Kash­mir

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­dian shelling has forced thou­sands of vil­lagers from their homes in Pak­istani-con­trolled Kash­mir, a Pak­istani law­maker said yes­ter­day. The evac­u­a­tion from vil­lages in the Bhim­ber district came af­ter seven Pak­istani sol­diers were killed by In­dian shelling on Mon­day. The two sides have re­peat­edly traded fire in re­cent weeks across the Line of Con­trol that di­vides the Hi­malayan re­gion.

The nu­clear-armed ri­vals each claim Kash­mir in its en­tirety, and have fought two of their three wars over its fate. Waqar Noor, a mem­ber of Kash­mir’s Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly, said au­thor­i­ties were mak­ing ar­range­ments to ac­com­mo­date thou­sands of vil­lagers from Bhim­ber, who are cur­rently shel­ter­ing in open fields or the homes of rel­a­tives. Noor said the vil­lagers would most likely shel­ter in schools, but that the govern­ment may set up a “tent vil­lage” if the num­ber of evac­uees keeps grow­ing.

Wakalat Hus­sain, a farmer from the vil­lage of Ba­nia, said the shelling and heavy gun­fire forced the vil­lagers to flee, leav­ing their homes and an­i­mals be­hind. “Like thou­sands oth­ers, I’m ly­ing here un­der the open sky with five chil­dren and my wife, with no ar­range­ments for food and shel­ter,” Hus­sain said by phone. “At least we don’t have to fear be­ing killed by the con­stant In­dian shelling.” Another farmer, Muham­mad Khadim from the vil­lage of Kheruwal, said he, his wife and their seven chil­dren passed a sleep­less night lis­ten­ing to the shells ex­plode be­fore flee­ing from their home near the Line of Con­trol.

Raja Fa­rooq Haider, the prime min­is­ter of Pak­istan-held Kash­mir, told re­porters that the govern­ment may have to pro­vide shel­ter to up to half a mil­lion peo­ple if In­dia es­ca­lates its “ag­gres­sion” across the Line of Con­trol. The prime min­is­ter said the govern­ment has so far made ar­range­ments for shel­ter­ing some 50,000 vil­lagers. In­dia says it has been re­tal­i­at­ing for Pak­istani vi­o­la­tions of a 2003 cease-fire. An In­dian army of­fi­cer said Pak­istani troops fired across the fron­tier for nearly four hours yes­ter­day. He spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to brief re­porters. He said there were no In­dian ca­su­al­ties.

—AP

KASH­MIR: In­dian vil­lagers leave on a scooter to safer places af­ter fir­ing from the Pak­istan side of the bor­der, in Pal­lan­wala sec­tor, Jammu and Kash­mir state yes­ter­day.

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